Coming at you from North Portland, Step Up to The Plate correspondents took their blog banter to the street for a refreshing dose of community shakin’ and healthy food activatin’. We ended up in the heart of Portsmouth, and spoke to Jim Pritchard, Project Coordinator of non-profit Janus Youth's latest endeavor: the Village Market. We’ll spare you our additional alliterative analysis this time and bring it to you straight from the man entrenched in a plan.
So Jim, what exactly is this Village Market that we keep hearing abou t?
The Village Market is not only going to be a grocery store in an area with limited access to fresh food—it’s unique in that it’s a nonprofit and all efforts are community driven. Janus Youth has supported and facilitated the development of the project and the Housing Authority of Portland has provided the space for the store, but a core group of community members have shaped the design and done much of the on-the-ground work to make this happen. The store will be dedicated to providing fresh and healthy food at low cost in order to increase the health of the entire community. Once the store is up and running, every employee will be an ambassador of good health. We will have a special section focused on teaching kids to make healthy decisions, and there’s a team working right now to figure out how to use the store as a vehicle to improve healthy choices beyond its walls.
Wow, that’s a lot of stuff going on. How did you get to this point?
Most important was reaching out to people in the community. We completed over 400 surveys to find out peoples’ shopping patterns and figure out what they would like to see in their neighborhood. We also visited over 40 vendors to learn about their distribution practices, prices, how much of their food is local or regional and see how they treat their growers and employees. At first people didn’t believe we had a market for the store. But after all the feedback from nearby residents, community momentum and calculating conservative estimates of gross annual sales, we were able to convince people that this store will not only be a valuable resource for the community but a fiscally viable project.
What are the next steps for Village Market in order to get up and running?
Well, there’s basic infrastructure to be put in the store- shelving, lighting, equipment, counters. We are currently accepting applications for a store manager (see job description here- applications are due on November 24th), and hope to have him or her on board by early January. We have an ongoing Stock the Shelves campaign, in which we’re hoping to raise $10 for every square foot of the store, so that Village market will be robust with goods on opening day. And, on December 15th we will be holding a celebration chock-full of food, music, demos and exhibits at the store to announce our official store opening date. All are welcome!
To stay in the loop about the exciting undertakings of the Village Market crew check out their website, get in touch with Jim (firstname.lastname@example.org) or attend a Portland Multnomah Food Policy Council Healthy Retail Food meeting.